“We’re going to win so much, you’re going to be so sick and tired of winning” – You after submitting your amazing personal statement to numerous law schools (if you don’t understand this reference, click here).
The personal statement is the cornerstone of your LL.M. application. A poor personal statement can corrupt an otherwise impressive application; conversely, a sensational personal statement can make the admissions committee take a second or third look at an otherwise mediocre applicant.
For this reason, it is important that you spend a long time brainstorming, writing, and editing your application. No personal statement is amazing on its first draft – a great LL.M. personal statement will be the result of multiple revisions and re-writes. As former United States Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis aptly put it, “there is no great writing, only great rewriting.”
With the above in mind, here are five main tips for writing an LL.M. personal statement.
1. Be Authentic (“You do you”)
“Today you are you, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is youer than you.”
– Dr. Suess
At Harvard Law School, one of my favorite Professor’s mantras was “you do you” (she sometimes also formulated it as “live your truth”). What I took this to mean was that she was encouraging us to be ourselves, and to live our lives according to our own, unique internal compass. In effect, in your LL.M. application you should embrace, relish, and convey all your unique passions, quirks, traits, passions, accomplishments that make you unique.
In working with a number of clients, I have notice a tendency for applicants to try and “bleach” their application of anything unique. These clients try to write their personal statements in accordance with that they think the admissions officers want to hear. However, admissions officers are not stupid – after reading tens of thousands of applications, they’ve heard the generic “I want to save the world” spiel before. If you want to actually save the world that’s fantastic, but be specific. If, however, your burning passion is complex banking regulation, fashion law, or tobacco law, express this passion and do not try to act like you’re the next Mother Theresa.
As an example, one of my classmates at Harvard was an amateur magician and was a tax lawyer. In his beautiful personal statement, he openly admitted his unique quirks and his love for magic. He then, very convincingly, explained how his love for magic and wonder translated into his passion for tax law. Why am I telling you this story? Because he was his authentic self in his personal statement – he was not just another insincere applicant trying to convince Harvard that he was trying to “save the world”.
2. Captivate the Reader
After reading thousands of personal statements, it is no surprise that admissions officers start glazing over personal statements. To wake your admissions officer out of their stupor, you should think about beginning your personal statement with an eye-catching, engaging, and captivating opening. This, for example, could be in the form of an anecdote or relevant quote. Here are some opening portions of personal statements I’ve seen that would pique an admission officer’s interest:
“The first time somebody told me that I would make a good lawyer, I was eight years old, and it was not a compliment.”
“While sitting in a room alone with a dozen high security prisoners was, initially, extremely daunting, volunteering with these prisoners ultimately became a humbling and illuminating experience and a catalyst for my legal career.”
“This is a story about stories. It’s a story about my grandfather, a master storyteller, and me, his apprentice. It’s a story about the last and most important lesson he taught me—a lesson not about how to tell good stories, but about the good that telling stories can do.”
The personal statement is your chance to make yourself become more than a two-dimension paper application. If you can tell a compelling, captivating, and lucid anecdote that relates to your narrative, your application will stand out and will, hopefully, move from the “maybe” application pile to the “admitted” pile.
3. Be Specific
In your personal statement, you will make claims about your experience, your interests, and your skills. However, it is important that any time you make a claim, you back it up with evidence that supports or explains the claim. While this may sound obvious, you would be surprised how many personal statements I’ve read that make unsupported,and often grandiose, claims.
By way of example, if you are going to say you have always loved “human rights work”, provide: specific examples of how this passion developed; how you have furthered this interest (i.e. specific law school courses, legal research, or job experience); and how, specifically, the law school you are applying to will enable you to do achieve your career goals.
Expanding on that last point above, it is important that your personal statement has a “why [insert name of law school]” paragraph. However, this cannot be generic. If you are saying Harvard, for example, do not merely say because it is “world renowned”. You should give examples of faculty members you are particularly interested in working with, courses you would take if admitted (i.e. read the course catalogue), and any clinics/law journals you wish to join. Do your research.
You are applying for a rigorous graduate degree program at some of the top law schools in the world. As a result, it should go without saying that the admissions committee expects that you do not only have grand ideas, visions, and aspirations, but that you are able to convey these in a professional and impeccable manner. Therefore your application should be devoid of grammatical and typographical errors.
With that in mind, you should consider using the services of a professional admissions consultant to ensure that your personal statement is flawless. At LLMSherpa, we provide expert proofreading services to ensure that a small blunder does not jeopardize your dreams. You can review the consulting services we offer here.
5. Coherent Narrative
As I have attempted to emphasize in previous posts, your personal statement is the item that ties your whole application (and life story) together – it explains discrepancies, it justifies life choices, and tells your unique narrative. The personal statement should also demonstrate how obtaining an LL.M. fits into that story – it should, in essence, give off the impression that an LL.M. from that particular school is not only desirable but is absolutely necessary if you are to achieve your ultimate career goals and dreams.
If you need help finding or developing your particular narrative, please get in contact. We have experience analyzing applicants’ backgrounds to find the most compelling narrative to ensure admission to the most prestigious law schools in the United States.
Prepare for the Journey, LLMSherpa